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In Conversation With… SU VP Welfare Candidate, Sameyiah Syed

Q: First of all, congratulations for putting yourself out there for the role of QMSU Vice President Welfare! There are doubtless plenty of students who have considered nominating themselves, but it takes real strength of character to push past the initial temptation to leave it to someone else and take that responsibility into your own hands. Can you tell us about what made you decide that you were going to run as a Vice President Welfare candidate?

A: When I started University in 2017, it was my first time abroad on my own. I found the experience extremely overwhelming. As an international student, I had trouble making friends in the “Freshers” week and found myself extremely depressed and lonely by the end of it. Although the SU had a lot of platforms to engage the students throughout the first few weeks, I could not find the best one for myself. Throughout my first year, my grades and mental health suffered a lot as I never could adjust in a new country and a society. Since the time I joined Queen Mary, I doubt there has been any international student on the post of vice president. I felt like I, being an international student myself, can bring a newer perspective to the Union.

Q: The QMSU website describes the Vice President Welfare as someone who “represents students and campaigns on matters relating to welfare, including mental health, student finance, equality of opportunity and student welfare”. What do you think is an issue related to student welfare that has been sorely unaddressed by former SU representatives, and how would you propose to tackle it?

A: I feel like very few vice presidents have focused on the security of the students. By security, I mean making the students on and off campus feel secure in all dimensions, be it physical security, personal security or even the security of the environment around them. I myself have seen my personal security under threat on campus at night. Even something like a stranger following you all the way through your accommodation on campus can have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. Increasing the on-campus security is one of the things on the top of my agenda. Moving on, I also believe not many representatives have focused on the campus environment. I plan to make the campus more environmentally friendly.

Q: In recent years, there has been a climate of apathy amongst QMUL students towards the Students’ Union elections. Last year saw a mere 13% of students vote. Tell us about why you believe students should take more interest in the SU elections, and why engaging with your SU welfare representative is important.

A: QMSU defines itself as a democratic membership organisation that is the voice of all the Queen Mary students. It cannot be the student’s voice if students do not elect the candidate that they trust the most to represent their views. The representatives lobby, debate and campaign on behalf of the students. If students do not choose who represents them, it will eventually result in Trump being the president of the SU.

Q: Producing a manifesto is a crucial task for an aspiring SU representative and they often require hours of careful deliberation. But, for those of us sitting in the Ground Café in our rushed one-hour lunch break and our brains scattered from a tedious lecture, how would you condense your policies down into a quick and direct sentence to a friend when time is of the essence?

A: All my policies can be condensed to a single word; security. Physical, mental, health, academic and environmental security.

Q: According to the QMSU website, the VP Welfare is also expected to “represent students in the local community to local councils, police and other local organisations”. If you were given the opportunity to meet with Tower Hamlets council right now, what concerns or issues would you raise that you believe the local council could help you with?

A: We have all had concern with the safety in the areas around Mile End. It is often that we hear a case of stabbing or theft. I would urge Tower Hamlets to increase the security around Stepney Green, Mile End and Whitechapel stations as many of the students that study in Queen Mary commute from there on a daily basis.

Q: Well done for making it through to the end! We’re going to wrap things up with something a little more informal to get to know more about who you are as an individual, VP Welfare or not. If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?

A: I think I would be a beaver; I love sleeping and warmth. I am creative yet practical in dealing with my problems.

You can find the manifestos of all VP Welfare candidates here:

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